Winners of 24th King Salman Award for Holy Qur’an to be honored in Riyadh

Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar honors the winners of the 23rd edition of King Salman Award for the Holy Qur’an memorization. (SPA)
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Updated 22 March 2023

Winners of 24th King Salman Award for Holy Qur’an to be honored in Riyadh

  • More than 3,000 compete in 6 divisions, with 105 contestants making it to the finals

RIYADH: Prince Faisal bin Bandar, governor of Riyadh, will attend the 24th King Salman Award for the Holy Qur’an memorization, recitation and interpretation for boys, which will be held on Thursday. 

The ceremony, organized and supervised by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance, will be held at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh in the presence of the Saudi Islamic Minister Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, along with scholars, senior officials, and ambassadors and directors of charities for memorization of the Qur’an in the Kingdom.

More than 3,000 contestants took part in the preliminaries, 105 of whom made it to the finals. The contestants in the preliminaries participated in six divisions of the competition. The first division is memorizing the Qur’an entirely with good performance and intonation with seven frequent readings. 

The second is memorizing the Qur’an entirely with good performance, intonation, and interpretation of the vocabulary of the Qur’an, and the third division is memorizing the entire Qur’an with good performance and intonation. 

The fourth division of the competition involves memorizing 20 consecutive parts of the Qur’an with good performance; the fifth division involves memorizing 10 consecutive parts of the Qur’an with good performance and intonation; and the last division of the competition involves memorizing five consecutive parts of the Qur’an with good performance and intonation.

The King Salman award for memorization of the Qur’an for girls will be held on Friday evening in the presence of King Salman’s wife, Princess Fahda bint Falah Al-Hathleen, at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.

Prizes worth SR3 million ($800,000) will be distributed among the winners in the six divisions of the competition.

EU envoy lauds success of Saudi museum management, development training program

Updated 15 sec ago

EU envoy lauds success of Saudi museum management, development training program

RIYADH: An EU-backed museum management and development training program aims to help promote cultural heritage preservation in Saudi Arabia.

Museum professionals, students, and other interested parties recently took part in three workshops hosted by the EU delegation in Riyadh and the Saudi Museums Commission.

EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Christophe Farnaud said: “The EU is renowned for its commitment to preserving Europe’s rich cultural heritage and fostering the arts and creative industries.

“We are honored by the trust placed in us by the Ministry of Culture and the Museums Commission to contribute to the development of expertise in the Saudi museum sector.”

Dr. Taghreed Alsaraj, the commission’s general manager of education and talent development, said: “We are very pleased with our collaboration with the EU in designing and delivering the museum management training program. We look forward to sustaining this collaboration.”

The initiative, which got underway in February, has been designed to develop the Saudi cultural sector, establish sustainable museums, and improve efficiency levels in line with Vision 2030 targets.

More than 100 delegates participated in the sessions which were led by European industry experts, with contributions from top officials from leading institutions such as the Egyptian Museum in Turin, the Louvre Conservation Center in Lievin, France, the Prado Museum in Madrid, and the National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Florence.

In a statement, the EU Delegation said the collaboration with the Museums Commission had exceeded expectations and laid strong foundations for future cooperation, while also helping to meet EU strategic partnership goals aimed at strengthening links with the Gulf Cooperation Council and its member states.

Saudi Arabia offers condolences to Iraq after deadly wedding hall fire

Updated 43 min 47 sec ago

Saudi Arabia offers condolences to Iraq after deadly wedding hall fire

  • The fire broke out during a wedding on Tuesday night, at an event hall in the northern Iraqi town of Qaraqosh

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia offered condolences to Iraq after a fire ripped through a wedding hall, killing more than 100 and injuring scores more.
The Kingdom shared its sympathy through a foreign ministry statement issued on Wednesday morning, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.
The fire broke out during a wedding on Tuesday night, at an event hall in the northern Iraqi town of Qaraqosh, officials said early Wednesday.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry said it had issued four arrest warrants for owners of the wedding hall, state media reported, and President Abdul Latif Rashid called for an investigation

‘People, planet and prosperity’ top the agenda as Saudi Arabia hosts World Tourism Day celebration

Updated 27 September 2023

‘People, planet and prosperity’ top the agenda as Saudi Arabia hosts World Tourism Day celebration

  • More than 500 government officials and industry leaders from 120 countries are in Riyadh from September 27 to 28
  • Saudi Arabia is the chair of the UNWTO Executive Council for 2023 and host of its Middle East headquarters

RIYADH: Since it fully opened its borders to visitors, launched a flexible e-visa system, and began developing a wide range of luxury, heritage and adventure-holiday attractions, Saudi Arabia has reinvented itself in just a few short years into a major emerging tourism market.

The Kingdom is therefore seen by many as the natural choice to host a number of events to mark World Tourism Day 2023, an international day (Sept. 27) that was established by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to celebrate the power of the sector to help bridge cultures.

This year’s meetings and discussions, which will be hosted by Riyadh on Sept. 27 and 28, will address the challenges and opportunities for the industry, under the organization’s core themes of “people, planet and prosperity.”

Saudi Arabia is chairing the organization’s executive council this year, and Riyadh is home to its first regional office in the Middle East, which positions the Kingdom as an important ambassador for tourism in the region.

More than 500 government officials will join experts and industry leaders from 120 countries at the events, which will examine the ways in which the sector is recovering from the economic blows of the COVID-19 pandemic, and responding to calls for greater environmental and social sustainability.

“We have a historic opportunity to chart a new course for the global tourism sector, centered on sustainable development, job creation and economic resilience,” said Ahmed Al-Khateeb, the Saudi minister of tourism.

“Tourism — as a catalyst for change — fosters mutual understanding, builds bridges, and safeguards cultural heritage and environmental conservation, contributing to a more harmonious world.

“World Tourism Day 2023 is an important platform for the world to celebrate the sector’s successes and explore solutions to its challenges. Saudi Arabia is honored to host this esteemed occasion and we look forward to welcoming tourism leaders from the public and private sectors to Riyadh.”

According to organizers, this year’s event is set to be the biggest and most impactful World Tourism Day in the 43-year history of the event.

In addition to Al-Khateeb, other speakers will include UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, Vice Minister of Tourism Princess Haifa bint Mohammed, Spain’s Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Tourism Rosa Ana Morillo Rodriguez, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Patricia de Lille, Croatia’s Minister of Tourism and Sports Nikolina Brnjac, and Turkiye’s Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Ersoy.

The list of speakers also includes Pansy Ho, the secretary-general of the Global Tourism Economy Forum, and the CEOs of a number of companies and organizations, including Ibrahim Koshy of Saudi Arabian Airlines, Pierfrancesco Vago of MSC Cruises, Greg Webb of Travelport, Ritesh Agarwal of OYO, Julia Simpson of the World Travel and Tourism Council, and Matthew Upchurch of Virtuoso.

“This World Tourism Day, we focus on the vital need to invest in building a more sustainable sector for people, planet and prosperity,” said Pololikashvili.

“The day also makes clear why UNWTO underscores the need for investment in education and for greater innovation as the foundations for long-term growth and transformation. This year’s official celebration in Saudi Arabia reflects how tourism is being embraced to diversify economies and generate opportunities for all.”

The rapidly growing Saudi tourism industry is driven by the government’s Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda. The sector is expected to account for 10 percent of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2030, creating 1.6 million jobs.

Tourism is one of the biggest drivers of economic growth worldwide and is forecast to contribute $9.5 trillion to global GDP this year alone, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

This is in line with UNWTO forecasts that tourism is on track to recover to between 80 and 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels this year, and to exceed 2019 levels in 2024.

This is very good news for national economies in both traditional and emerging tourism markets, as the sector not only provides a wealth of employment and business opportunities, it also plays an important soft-power role in promoting cross-cultural understanding.

“Tourism is a powerful force for progress and mutual understanding,” said Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general. “But to deliver its full benefits, this force must be protected and nurtured.

“On this World Tourism Day, we recognize the vital need for green investments to build a tourism sector that delivers for people and planet. So let us all do more to harness the full potential of sustainable tourism. Because investing in sustainable tourism is investing in a better future for all.”

The two-day event in Riyadh will focus on three subthemes: mutual understanding, economic sustainability and social prosperity.

Day one, during which delegates will explore “Tourism and Green Investments,” will include panels on the power of tourism in building bridges, investing in human capabilities, the potential of less-visited destinations, the challenges in achieving a sustainable future and the potential solutions, bridging the innovation gap, and powering entrepreneurship.

In the evening, Saudi Arabia’s UNESCO World Heritage Site of Diriyah, north of Riyadh, will host a gala dinner in celebration of World Tourism Day.

The second day will include the “Tourism Leaders Forum,” under the theme “Tourism for People, Prosperity and Intercultural Dialogue,” and a session focusing on the public-sector that will explore options for a sustainable and green future for the industry.

In addition, a private-sector session will look at “seamless end-to-end travel,” with a view to developing the infrastructure, legislation and services needed for mass-transit networks worldwide that promote ease and comfort of travel.

There will also be a handover session during which Saudi Arabia will pass the baton to next year’s host nation, Georgia.

The wider aim of the event, organizers say, is to foster global collaborations, explore opportunities, strengthen the resilience of the tourism sector, and work toward an investment-led and sustainably focused future for the industry.

Delegates will have the opportunity to explore innovative approaches to tourism, consider success stories and best practices that integrate tourism with green investment, and learn how the sector can be promoted as a means of bridging cultures.

Investment in tourism and infrastructure in Saudi Arabia has grown rapidly since the country opened its borders more widely to foreign tourists in 2019 and introduced its e-visa system.

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Tourism was established in 2020 to bring the sector to the forefront of the Vision 2030 agenda, with the aim of creating 1 million jobs for citizens, and enabling and accelerating sustainable growth through future-focused policies.

Authorities in the Kingdom say that, guided by data, they are pursuing investments and talent-development programs to attract industry-leading partners. They have set a target of welcoming 100 million foreign visitors by 2030 and boosting the contribution of the sector to GDP from 3 percent to 10 percent during that time.

Tourism projects are under development or construction in several parts of the country, including a chain of luxury resorts along the country’s western coast known as the Red Sea project, and the island of Umluj, which is known as “the Maldives of Saudi Arabia” thanks to its crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches.

Other areas being targeted include the mountainous Asir region, a prime location for outdoor sports and adventure activities, and the ancient desert region of AlUla, site of many archaeological treasures including the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra and the “Journey Through Time” master plan, a living, breathing museum and cultural-heritage hub.

On Monday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the masterplan to develop a new project in Soudah to present a new face of luxury mountain tourism. Soudah Peaks will see a luxury mountain tourism destination set 3,015 meters being created above sea level on Saudi Arabia’s highest peak.

The project will be executed by Soudah Development, a company owned by Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, that is driving the development of Soudah and parts of Rijal Almaa in Asir.

The growing investment in tourism and the resulting increase in visitors is good news for key players in the Saudi hospitality industry, who have been working to expand their offerings to meet booming demand for accommodation, dining, activities and relaxation.

“The Kingdom’s identity as the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds, its leading investment capabilities, and its strategic geographical position all play a significant role in supporting Saudi Arabia on its journey to become a global tourism destination,” Richard Johnson, the general manager of Al-Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“World Tourism Day, held in Riyadh, will offer a prime opportunity to showcase the Kingdom’s progress to this end, where travel and tourism industry leaders from around the world will gather and witness how the nation proactively connects Saudis with the world, builds bridges between cultures, nurtures hospitality talent, and creates investment opportunities for the international community.”

Saudi crown prince offers condolences to Bahrain king over military deaths

Updated 27 September 2023

Saudi crown prince offers condolences to Bahrain king over military deaths

  • Two Bahraini military personnel were killed near the southern Saudi border with Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a phone call to Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the Saudi Press Agency reported early Wednesday.

The crown prince offered condolences over the two Bahraini military personnel killed near the southern Saudi border with Yemen and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

King Hamad expressed his thanks and appreciation for the crown prince and affirmed that Bahrain is proud of the two soldiers, who were carrying out their national duties.

The bodies of the fallen servicemen Lieutenant Mubarak Hashel Zayed Al-Kubaisi and Corporal Yaqoub Rahmat Moulai Mohammed arrived on Monday at the Isa Air Base on board a Royal Bahraini Air Force aircraft, the Bahrain New Agency said.

Bahrain’s military command said a drone attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels killed the two Bahraini soldiers — one of them an officer — at Saudi Arabia’s southern border early Monday. The soldiers had been patrolling the area.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry voiced its “condemnation and denunciation” of the “treacherous attack on the defense force of the Kingdom of Bahrain stationed on the southern border of the Kingdom, which resulted in the martyrdom of a number of its brave soldiers and the injury of others.”

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands by Bahrain and renews its stance of rejection to the continued flow of weapons to the terrorist Houthi militia as well as calls to ban arms export to Yemeni territories,” it said.

Saudi historian calls for using historical oases in the Kingdom to attract tourists

Updated 26 September 2023

Saudi historian calls for using historical oases in the Kingdom to attract tourists

MAKKAH: A Saudi historian has said the Kingdom’s rich archaeological and natural heritage should be used to entice more foreign tourists to come and visit the country.

Dr. Khalil Al-Muaiqil, a researcher in the antiquities of the Arabian Peninsula, said the area is the oldest known habitat of ancient man, with Al-Shuwaihatiya site in Al-Jawf, which is 1.3 million years old, recorded as the oldest archaeological site in West Asia.

Al-Muaiqil said most of the historical oases in the Arabian Peninsula still exist today outside areas such as Dumat al-Jandal, Taima, AlUla, and Khaybar, and that other oases disappeared a long time ago such as at Al-Faw and Al-Jarha.

He told Arab News that due to their historical, archaeological, and environmental components, the ancient oasis should be a significant tourism destination.

“Man settled in various regions of the Arabian Peninsula during prehistoric eras. Thousands of sites dating back to the paleolithic and mesolithic periods have been recorded,” he said.

Al-Muaiqil noted that during these periods, the region was characterized by dense vegetation and high rainfall. “This explains the recording of large numbers of Stone Age sites in the Empty Quarter and the Great Nafud Desert, which confirms that these deserts were covered by trees and vegetation before they turned into deserts due to major climate changes in the neolithic era, which dates back to the period between the tenth millennium and the sixth millennium BC.”

Dr. Khalil Al-Muaiqil, a researcher in the antiquities of the Arabian Peninsula. 

According to Al-Muaiqil, the pattern of settlement shifted from one of hunters seeking food to one of settled people making their own food. Digging wells, constructing reservoirs, water tanks, and crude dams allowed man to shift to agriculture, food production, and the establishment of agricultural towns and villages.

“This climate change, which led to the formation of the great deserts in the Empty Quarter, the Nafud, and the Dahna, prompted ancient humans to search for suitable settlement sites, in which sources of groundwater close to the surface and fertile lands suitable for agriculture were available. Some researchers believe that the period of the third and second millenniums BC was the period of the formation of oases in most regions of the Arabian Peninsula.”

He pointed out that the work of settlers and the network of roads they built over time “turned into routes for trade caravans starting at the end of the second millennium BC. These areas later became centers for Arab Kingdoms in the south, center, north and east of the Arabian Peninsula.”

According to Al-Muaiqil, the kingdom of Duma appeared in the north of the Arabian Peninsula, and the kingdoms of Dedan and Lihyan appeared in AlUla, with the kingdom of Taima in the north of AlUla, among others.

“These kingdoms contributed to the development of ancient Arab civilization and provided cultural products that contributed to influencing the regions located to the north of them, especially in Mesopotamia and the Levant,” he said.

“These influences appear clearly in the early periods that coincided with the human migrations that emerged from the various regions of the peninsula to those areas, carrying with them their culture. This is what happened when the Islamic armies went out to spread the call to Islam. The inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula carried all their cultural reserves, which contributed to the crystallization of Islamic architecture and arts and the planning of Islamic cities.”